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One inmate dead, more than 300 infected amid COVID-19 outbreak at Culpeper County prison

Coffeewood Correctional Center in Culpeper County, VA.
Coffeewood Correctional Center in Culpeper County, VA.(WVIR)
Updated: Nov. 24, 2020 at 8:07 PM EST
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CULPEPER COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - A coronavirus outbreak at Coffeewood Correctional Center in Culpeper County has infected hundreds of inmates. The Department of Corrections’ website reports 303 inmate cases and 24 staff cases.

The Virginia Department of Corrections (VDOC) says one 57-year-old inmate at Coffeewood, who was imprisoned for eluding or disregarding officers and other driving-related offenses, died Monday, November 16.

“He was serving a 2 year, 8-month sentence,” VDOC Deputy Director of Communications Gregory Carter said in a statement to NBC29.

With 303 cases out of an average population of 889 inmates, over a third of those serving time at Coffeewood have the virus.

“They’re scared to death because some of them have diabetes, they’ve got heart problems, and asthma real bad and now they’ve got the virus,” an inmate’s mother, Pauline Menefee said. “They don’t know if they’re going to see their loved ones again.”

Menefee says her son tested negative for weeks, but that changed after infected inmates were brought into his building. He tested positive on Monday, November 23.

“Offenders testing positive are placed in medical isolation so they don’t infect others. Treatment follows the department’s COVID medical guidelines,” Carter said.

Menefee says that’s not the case. “He was in a building that had all negative cases, but they’re moving people that have positive cases in there with them. They’re not keeping things safe over there.”

Menefee also says the correctional officers at Coffeewood are not taking it seriously, according to phone calls with her son.

“You’ve got the COs up there in the office laughing at the people all curled up in the beds sick. They think it’s funny,” she said.

Virginia’s DOC insists Coffeewood is following CDC guidelines. “The Department continues to plan for every possible contingency, following CDC guidelines for corrections and working closely with the Virginia Department of Health,” Carter said.

Full Statement from VDOC Deputy Director of Communications Gregory Carter 11/24/2020:

The doctors, nurses, and medical staff are working around the clock to test and provide care to inmates during this pandemic. Offenders testing positive are placed in medical isolation so they don’t infect others. Treatment follows the department’s COVID medical guidelines. While there is no cure for COVID, we treat symptoms as they arise, just as you would in any primary care setting. We can provide many things, including oxygen, on-site. If inmates require an inpatient level of care, they are transported to a hospital.

Security and operations staff are carefully managing inmate movement and adhering to the Department’s extensive medical epidemic/pandemic sanitation plan. All offenders and staff are required to wear appropriate PPE at all times, including medical-grade PPE, such as N-95 masks, when appropriate.

The Department continues to plan for every possible contingency, following CDC guidelines for corrections and working closely with the Virginia Department of Health.

On Nov. 16, a COVID-positive Coffeewood Correctional Center inmate died at Culpeper Regional Hospital around 2:40 p.m. The inmate was a 57-year old male of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. He was serving a 2 year, 8-month sentence for law enforcement command: disregard or elude, endanger; unauthorized use of an animal/vehicle, etc., larceny < 200; and driving while license revoked/suspended.

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